Species of the family Salicaceae s.str. are valuable resources for bioremediation and as a potential biofuel, in addition to their traditional importance in soil stabilisation, basketry, medicine, etc. Breeding programmes to maximise useful traits depend upon accurate and comprehensive identification of the species. However, the species of this family are notoriously difficult to identify because of the great variability within the species and the ease with which they hybridise. At present there is no univ ersally accepted classification of Salicaceae s.str.
The project will characterise both genera, Salix L. and Populus L., of Salicaceae s.str. comprising about 620 species worldwide. It will result in the creation of a comprehensive database of characters, taxonomically validated names, synonyms, bibliographic details, geographical distribution, illustrations and taxonomic comments. On the basis of this database, a checklist will be created and published as a book and on the Internet. An interactive key will also be made available on the Internet. Using the collected morphological data, a worldwide classification system will be constructed, for the first time, for these two genera.
This classification will be combined with the results of a molecular genetic analysis of the species using both plastid and nuclear genetic markers, which will also establish phylogenetic relationships within these two genera. In doing so, DNA from species acquired from the field and from contacts and herbaria around the world, will be added to the DNA bank at the host institution. The project will combine one of the most experienced systematic botanists specialising in the family Salicaceae s.str. with one of the foremost botanical collections and laboratories in the world, to create a definitive classification of an economically important group of plants. The Fellow will learn molecular genetic methods and be able to introduce them to her institute on return to her home country.
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